At Home in Arkansas: The overall feel of this home is opulent and elegant, without seeming too feminine or fussy. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the design?
Designer Debi Davis: My clients, David and Linda Hargis, are the seventh family to occupy this stunning Georgian-style home. The house had been modified and updated over the years, but the architectural integrity had always been protected. When David and Linda purchased the home, it had an “Old World” look, with dark cocoa walls and beautiful antiques. We wanted to lighten the space and encourage the rooms to flow together, while still showcasing the character and intent of the architect’s original design.
It makes sense, then, that you chose such a fresh, neutral palette.
We really wanted something that would stand the test of time. I prefer for colors to whisper instead of shout. Even though a monochromatic palette like this one—warm creams, butter, and very light beiges—is more difficult to execute, it’s something that will never go out of style. It’s like clothing: orange or turquoise might be “in” now, but you won’t see them anywhere next year. Instead of something shocking, we chose to wrap all of the walls in our custom color—a soft, yummy cream—and then accented with complementary shades.
The home has plenty of intricate, architectural millwork, which looks to be hued in the same creamy colors as the walls. Did you paint the trim the same color?
All of that gorgeous trim was already in the house, but we wanted it to blend in more seamlessly. Instead of making a giant statement, painting it the same color as the walls let the millwork’s beauty come through more subtly. It’s not as predominant now, which feels right, since I don’t like rooms to look like a jigsaw puzzle.
We understand that every room in the home—from the entry to the pool house—was freshened up. Were there any specific lifestyle needs that had to be taken into consideration when planning your design?
Though David and Linda are empty-nesters, they have four grandchildren who visit on a regular basis. They’re also big entertainers and host many fundraisers and social events at their home. Linda wanted a design scheme that was timeless and pretty, but that was also extremely livable and durable. Any fabric or finish had to be able to stand up to kids, dogs and lots of visitors.
And it looks like you used a lot of fabric. Tell us how you were able to find beautiful materials that could still sustain a little wear and tear.
Elegant and comfortable can most definitely coexist. We used durable cottons and linens in more casual spaces like the kitchen and the den, and saved dressier fabrics for the draperies. That being said, we still tried to keep the draperies simple and understated—just because something is silk doesn’t mean it has to be formal. You can stick a casual pattern on a silk curtain, or wrap a comfy sofa in lush, soft chenille. Similarly, a damask pattern on cotton is interesting and textural, yet still functional and accessible.
We noticed a similar mix of materials in the light fixtures and furnishings you chose throughout the house. Was it difficult to make these feel cohesive from room to room?
It’s definitely possible to mix gold patinas, bronzes and irons without feeling like you’re in the Louvre, but it has to have a purpose. For instance, if I used an iron curtain rod, it’s because an antique Italian chest in the room had ornate, iron hardware. The chandeliers are a mix of carved wood, crystal and bronze, but they all work together because we kept the coloration and the style consistent. I wanted to avoid that “around the world in 20 rooms” phenomenon, when each room is designed as its own entity. Even in the guest room, we took into consideration the overall look and feel of the other rooms so that it wouldn’t seem out of place.
We love the artwork and accessories you’ve combined in vignettes throughout the house. Are the homeowners art collectors?
They collect both contemporary art and Art Deco glass. David also paints in his spare time. Their desire to place their favorite pieces in prominent places inspired a lot of the design. In the living room, we brought the glass pieces out of cabinets and set them on the bookshelves, offsetting them with antique books in cream and caramel colors. We mixed the paintings with antique panels, as I always want a combination of art and architectural elements.
You’ve effortlessly combined old and new, formal and fun. What’s the draw for mixing these different styles?
It’s just so much more interesting. A house should talk to you—it should tell your story. I love to see old, vintage things combined with something luxe and shiny, and then a terra cotta pot next to it all. It’s the décor equivalent of a Dolce & Gabbana top with a pair of Gap jeans: when it’s done right, it looks absolutely fabulous.
Interior design Debi Davis, Debi Davis Interior Design, Little Rock, (501) 221-2032, danddinteriordesign.com
Contractor Tom Allen Construction, Little Rock, (501) 225-0346
Accessories Bonnie Blackmon Antiques, Little Rock, (501) 352-4704; Ellen Golden Antiques, Little Rock, (501) 664-7746; Marshall Clements, Little Rock, (501) 663-1828, marshallclements.com; Trianon Antiques, Little Rock, (501) 663-5502
Carpet C & F Flooring and Rug Gallery, Little Rock, (501) 399-9909, candfcarpet.com
Lighting Bonnie Blackmon Antiques, Little Rock, (501) 352-4704; Marshall Clements, Little Rock, (501) 663-1828, marshallclements.com; Trianon Antiques, Little Rock, (501) 663-5502
Mirrors Bonnie Blackmon Antiques, Little Rock, (501) 352-4704
Rugs Martinous Oriental Rug Co., Little Rock, (501) 224-0313, martinous.com